Isn’t Yoga Just Stretching?

Credit: Play Mile High

Many people attending yoga classes today do so for the physical benefits. Often the additional effects of calming the mind and tuning the inner processes of the body are an added bonus. This differs greatly from how yoga students in Eastern cultures practice yoga; as a way of life not just an hourly class for three times a week. The popularity and growth of yoga in the UK has moved along at a rapid pace with new studios and styles of classes appearing. There’s something for everyone’s tastes and personal preferences from sweating it all out in a hot power class to soothing and unwinding in a gentle restorative class.

Stretching or calisthenics may look similar to yoga on the surface but delving deeper below the initial impressions and appearances there is a great difference. Calisthenics are an aerobic workout of stretches and movements, such as bending, jumping, swinging, twisting or kicking, using only one’s body weight for resistance, designed to challenge the cardiovascular system and burn energy to build strength and flexibility. Routines are often used as a warm up before any sporting activity. The movements are performed in a rhythmical way, often to music, with a smooth transition between each move. They are designed to get the body warmed up and the heart rate increased ready for intense, high energy sport or exercise.

Whilst yoga increases muscular strength and flexibility the practice doesn’t stop with the physical effects. Yoga (meaning to join together or union) aims to integrate the body, mind and spirit using physical postures, the breath and the mind. Yoga goes beyond purely burning calories and toning the body. Yoga is a philosophy, a spiritual path and moral and ethical framework. Yoga is an examination of the self or soul. The philosophy behind yoga explains human existence in terms of energy – physical energy in the body from cellular processes, mental energy that is sensory, emotional and intelligence and spiritual energy or prana that is distributed throughout the body and connects the physical to the mental and mental to the spiritual.

The practice of yoga allows the body to fine tune its performance and for the physiological systems to function correctly. Yoga postures (asana) and breathing practices (pranayama) allow the body to open up in certain ways, sending blood, energy and other fluids are sent to the muscles and organs. Asana and pranayama are the foundations of yoga that link the body to the mind and the soul. They work together to provide a basis for providing the body what it needs perform at its best. Both of these practices are seen as a foundation to prepare the body and mind for meditation and moving closer to connecting with the soul and your true self.

A regular yoga practice has many health benefits for both body and mind such as reduced blood pressure, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduced body fat, improved cognitive function, better mood regulation and emotional stability, increased flexibility and a better ability to manage chronic pain. These benefits pave the way for good health, improved emotional wellbeing and that sense of wanting to delve in to something a little deeper. That spiritual, soulful side of yoga that has a way of working its way in to your practice and daily activities. As one of the most influential yoga teachers, BKS Iyengar once stated ” Yoga is a light that once lit, will never dim.”

Words by Jacqueline Coleman


How To Incorporate Yoga Into Your Daily Life.

Credit: Yoga Basics.

Yoga can change your life.  It has been around for thousands of years, but only now have we discovered the benefits of practising yoga on a regular basis. We often use the excuse that we are ‘too busy’ to find the time for yoga in our daily lives but yoga is so much more than just asana (practising yoga positions and postures).

One of the common misconceptions about yoga is that in order to ‘do’ yoga, you have to go to an hour and a half long class at a studio. But that’s far from the truth. There are so many ways you can incorporate yoga into your daily life, whether it be living in the moment, focusing on your breath or stretching on your lunch break at work, make time for yoga and you will soon see the amazing benefits that everyone has been talking about.

Here are a few ways you can make yoga a part of your life every day:

Practice Mindfulness

If there is one main thing yoga teaches you, it is to live in the present moment. Every moment you spend on the mat, you are learning to be more patient, compassionate, dedicated and kind. To take those lessons you learn and incorporate them into your daily life, you need to learn to be mindful. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds, honest. Learn to step back and appreciate the smallest moments of your life, become aware of how your mind works, be concious of all of your actions in different situations and work towards being the best version of yourself.


Most of us don’t pay attention to our breathing pattern. Having a shallow breath can cause anxiety and stress and trigger other physical sensations in the body and many of us are unconsciously breathing this way. Find time in the day to try a few full, deep and mindful breaths. Start by breathing in through your nose, making sure you breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. Count to four, hold for seven and breathe out slowly for eight. Being in tune with your breath is essential for yoga practice. Pranayama is a type of yogic breath awareness and regulation exercise designed to help control one’s vital energy. Notice how calm and centred you feel after just a few mindful breaths.

Go Outside

Spending more time outside will allow you to connect with everything around you. The word ‘yoga’ means union. Nature will teach you everything you need to know about learning to let go and appreciate what is around you. In modern life, it can be difficult to disconnect and truly be. If you feel you have lost the deep connection between you and the earth, step outside, breathe and observe everything around you. You can do some yoga outside if you find the perfect spot, or you can do yoga inside and have the curtains open so the sun can shine in.

Practice Five-Minute Meditation Every Day

The word ‘meditation’ can often fill people with dread, they will say that they ‘can’t meditate.’ It’s hard to still the mind and it takes a lot of practice. Start by spending five minutes each day in silence. You don’t have sit in any unusual pose, you don’t even have to close your eyes. Just focus on your breath and try to silence your mind for five minutes each day, preferably in the morning. Once you feel comfortable doing five minutes each day, slowly increase it and let all of your troubles melt around you.

Stretch It Out

The great thing about stretching is you can do it anywhere! Don’t think that the yoga mat is the only place you can practice. Try stretching on your lunch break at work, do a few twists in your office chair. Start the morning off by doing a quick full body stretch before you get in the shower. By doing a simple back arch, you can stretch tired muscles and eliminate physical and mental fatigue.



Happy Pancake Day!

Credit: Nutrition Warehouse.

It’s that time of year again, where we pile up our plates with multiple pancakes. How do you like yours? Flat with lots of yummy and gooey toppings spread all over? Sprinkled with flavoursome goods and rolled up to be deliciously devoured?

With the current trends for healthy eating, pancakes have become a popular option. Lots of different and tasty variations to choose from. Before we delve into the options, let us just remember for a minute what Pancake Day is all about.

There is a lot more to Pancake Day than seeing how high you can flip your pancake without dropping it. The official name for the day is Shrove Tuesday and it is the last day before Lent. It’s a Christian tradition to focus on what we need to change, a day of reflection, to confess our sins. I quite like the idea that a day has been reserved specifically to assess the areas of our lives that can be improved and we can seek possibilities for growth.

The more traditional approach to Shrove Tuesday is the indulgence of rich and fatty foods. As part of the fasting and other religious obligations of Lent, these are things that are given up for the forty-day period. So it became, that all these types of foods were used up from the pantry. Eggs, sugar and flour being the main culprits. I guess it’s the same as eating the last of the mince pies after Christmas before starting your nine-day detox!

Here are two delicious ways you can have your pancakes:

The Traditional.

• 110g plain flour
• 2 eggs
• 200ml Semi skimmed milk
• 75ml water
• Pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a separate bowl. In a jug, measure out the milk and top up with the water. Add the pinch of salt. Crack the egg into the jug with the milk mixture.

Slowly whisk up the mixture, adding a bit of flour at a time until all is combined to a thick consistency. Cover the jug with some cling film and leave it to stand for 30 minutes.

Come back to the mixture and whisk it through again. Heat the pan with a tsp of coconut oil. Pour the mixture in to the pan, just enough to coat the bottom. It is a case of using your own judgement with this.

Leave for a couple of minutes before turning over or flipping them. Everyone has their own preference to the way
they like their pancakes. If it is your first attempt, a lot of trial and error is involved, but really good fun.

Buttered Up Version.

• 140g wholemeal spelt flour
• 1tsp gluten-free baking powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 1 egg
• 225ml butter milk

Sift the spelt flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a bowl. Add the egg and the buttermilk, mixing together the ingredients with an electric mixer to form a batter.

Gentle heat a non-stick frying pan, melting a little coconut oil or butter. Drop heaped tablespoons of mixture into the pan, leaving enough space in between. Allow to cook for a few minutes before turning each pancake over.

These are a lot smaller but still amazing with your favourite toppings. With so many to choose from, here are a few ideas for you to try:

• The popular sprinkle of sugar and lemon.
• A drizzle of honey and ice cream.
• Fresh berries and Greek yoghurt.
• Warm cherries and ice cream.
• Chopped bananas and fromage frais.
• Melted dark organic chocolate with sliced strawberries.

There is no limit to the variations that you can have, don’t forget to indulge and enjoy every last mouthful.

Why not share your favourite pancake creation in the comments boxes below? The Zest For Life team would love to hear your recipes.

Happy Pancake Day!

Words by Diane Eliza Maccabe

Zest For Life Recipes: Leek And Potato Soup.

Credit: Diane Eliza Maccabe

Leek And Potato Soup.

With the cold weather creeping in, it is time to get all snuggled up and keep warm. Here is another one of my favourite soups, Leek and Potato, simple and delicious. 

Serves 4-5

• 3 large leeks
• 800g potatoes
• 25g butter
• 2 organic vegetable stock cubes
• 100mls oat milk/ rice milk
• Salt and pepper
• Water as needed

Slice the leeks and place in a large stock pan with the butter. On a gentle heat, allow the leeks to brown slightly and release their flavour. Peel all the potatoes and dice. Then place in the pan with the leeks. Fill the pan with water so the potatoes and leeks are just covered. Add the stock cubes, salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and leave on a moderate heat. The soup usually takes about 30-40 mins to cook through. Check that the potatoes are soft and when ready, switch off the heat. Leave it to cool slightly for 5-10 mins. Using a hand blender, blitz through the soup until it is nice and smooth.

Please be careful not to get splashed. If you would like the soup to be chunky, allow less time to blend the ingredients. At this point, add the oat milk. This gives it a lovely creamy taste. Normal milk can be used if preferred. You might like to add more salt and pepper to flavour.

Place the soup back on a low heat and gently heat through again for a few minutes. Serve with a few pieces of your favourite bread.

Tip: Soup is perfect to save in containers to serve as a hearty lunch the next day and will keep for a few days in the fridge. That is if you can resist the temptation to have second helpings!

Zest For Life Recipes: Lentil And Vegetable Soup.

Credit: Diane Eliza Maccabe

Lentil And Vegetable Soup.

With the cold weather creeping in, it is time to get all snuggled up and keep warm. Here is one of my favourite comforting soups that is both filling and healthy. The perfect recipe to keep you warm this winter.

Serves 5-6

• 1 large onion
• 3-4 carrots
• 2 leeks
• 3 parsnips
• 2 garlic cloves crushed
• 2 chicken stock cubes
• 227g red lentils
• 1 can mixed beans
• 1 can green lentils
• 1 can of baked beans
• Mixed herbs to taste
• Fresh thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: You will need a very large pan or slow cooker.

Peel and chop all your veggies, place in the pan. Add the garlic and stock cubes. Open the all the tins, draining and rinsing the mixed beans and the green lentils. Place the baked beans, chopped tomatoes, mixed beans and green lentils in to the pan. Do not add the red lentils yet! Throw in the herbs and bay leaves.

Fill the pan with water until all the contents is covered, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 45 mins. It is best making this in a slow cooker, then you can put it on in the morning and leave to simmer through out the day. Back to the pan, when all the veggies are soft you can add the red lentils.

Leave it to brew for another 15 to 20 mins. Season to taste. When using the slow cooker, add the lentils about an hour before serving. Season with salt and pepper at this point as well. You may want to add more herbs to flavour. The soup will be quite thick and chunky, really nice with a big pieces of rye bread to dip in!

The Charcoal Solution For Oily Skin.

Credit: Oily Skin Guide

Everybody has different skin types, and I happen to have a ridiculously oily complexion.

I am skin lucky, in that I rarely get spots and only break-out after excess drinking or eating really badly. But I can see the excess oil glistening on my forehead and nose, sitting on top of my skin in a sheen, and my nose is completely clogged with blackheads.

Tired of having a constantly greasy face, I used Google to find things that are supposed to help and discovered that charcoal, tea tree oil and witch hazel remove oil from your face. The reason for this, is that charcoal attracts dirt and oil, so it pulls it off your face and out from your pores to clean your skin, whilst tea tree and witch hazel soothe the skin and help to keep it clear.

While in my local Boots, I started looking for charcoal based products and I happily stumbled across both a facial wash and face mask from their range that were a combination of all three ingredients I wanted; Tea Tree, Witch Hazel and Activated Charcoal. I’m not suggesting that you have to use the Boots brand, any product that has a combination of these ingredients would likely help, but this is an affordable range with both products priced between £3-£5.

The facial wash is thick and dark grey, not as easy to get off as other face washes because of its thick texture but it can still be used as an everyday wash. I usually put the face wash on and leave it for around three minutes while I brush my teeth, then lather it up with warm water and wash it off. The face mask comes in a little bottle, but because the product is so thick a small amount goes a long way. The texture is similar to the facial wash, except the face mask dries out easily while you leave it for fifteen minutes and has often hardened by the time you wash it off.

I have noticed most immediate results with the face mask, which I use once a week, but have found that both products make a difference to my oily skin. After using both products my skin feels dried out (but in a good way, if you have oily skin too you’ll know what I mean!) and the traces of excess oil have been removed from my skin.

If you have oily skin, I would definitely recommend trying some sort of charcoal-based product to help remove it. I’m not promising that it works for everyone because skin types are so different, but my skin always feels soft and smooth and more balanced after I use it.

Credit: Words by Ally Mclaren

10 Ways To Power Up Your Positivity.

Credit: Attitudes4Innovation

The journey of life has many twists and turns, in a negative world it is hard to stay upbeat and positive but remember this – every day you have a choice. You choose whether you want to be optimistic or pessimistic, see the best in everything or complain about how bad your day is. Positivity is a state of mind and you are in control of how you think. You choose your own reality, if you want to transform your life and power up your positivity, follow these simple steps.

1. Live In The Present –  Don’t drift between the past and the future. You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, live for each day and you will appreciate every moment and experience gratitude for the little things in your life that make you happy.

2. Be More Aware – The difference between those who see the positive over the negative lies in their observations. Be aware of the messages you tell yourself and the natural direction of your thoughts. We’re not always concious of our negative thoughts, paying close attention to how you instantly react to certain situations will help to change the way you think.

3. Surround Yourself With Positive People – Toxic situations are the biggest influence on a negative mind. The more negativity you surround yourself with, the more likely it is to effect you. Studies have shown that being around positive person can influence you in the same way, maintain your sunny disposition by only having positive thinkers in your life.

4. Get Up Early, Be Ready For The Day – The early bird catches the worm! Make the most of every minute of your day. Start your day with optimism and give yourself plenty of time to relax before you start your long to-do list for the day. Enjoy the little things, whether it’s your first cup of tea, watching your favourite TV show or taking your dog for a walk, look forward to something every day, it’s the perfect way to power up your positivity!

5. Dream Big, Think Big, Act Big – Find something you are passionate about, choose something you really love doing and stick with it until you achieve your goals. Do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality, believe that you can do anything and never ever give up!

6. Say Yes – Great things happen when you begin to say “yes” to life. You enjoy life more. You take more risks, which means you grow faster. Saying “yes” to life allows you to live up to your potential and enjoy the journey at the same time.

7. Talk To Yourself – Engage in uplifting conversations with yourself. Don’t tell yourself what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. Don’t drown yourself with unnecessary self-criticism, if you give yourself a pep talk in the mirror every morning, you will feel happier in your own skin.

8. Be Kind To Others – Doing something positive for another person can make you feel good. Studies have shown that being kind is the key to a happier wellbeing, seek opportunities in your daily life to be kind to those around you.

9. Find Peace In The Chaos – It’s a face-paced world that we live in, it’s sometimes hard to find peace in the chaos. Find something that you enjoy doing that relaxes you and spend half an hour a day to yourself. Learn to meditate, practice yoga, colour or even have a bubble bath and light some candles. Don’t forget to breathe!

10. Stop Comparing – Comparing yourself to others will only allow you to focus on what you aren’t, rather than enjoying who you are or thinking about who you can be. Your journey is different to everyone else’s, focus on your path and go through life at your own pace.